Friday, January 15, 2010

The Great Cognitive-Emotional Switcheroo

I was going about my daily chores this morning, my mind running ahead of me as usual, or, in this case, running behind me, to the past. I was thinking about our oldest daughter's year of Kindergarten in the public schools. I was thinking about why we pulled her out and chose to homeschool her and her two younger siblings.

I was thinking back to how she already knew how to read chapter books and do simple math before she ever went into Kindergarten, and how the only things she learned there were some bad words and that she had to ask permission to do anything outside the norm for fear of punishment.

I was thinking about how they talked about letting her skip a grade. I was thinking about how, in the 3 weeks our younger daughter spent in public school preschool, there was even talk of her skipping Kingergarten the next year.

I was thinking about how when I was in school, at different times, in different years, my parents were called in to discuss having me skip a grade.

I was thinking about my parents' reason for NOT letting me skip grades. I didn't understand it at the time, but when the topic came up in regards to my own kids, it made all the sense in the world.

Just because a child is "advanced" cognitively - academically - doesn't mean they are advanced emotionally. A five year old may be able to read and do math at a 2nd grade level, but he's still just a five year old...same frustrations, same immature emotional control.

Let that five year old skip a grade, and eventually you've got a preteen in a class of teenagers. At some point you're going to have a child whose feelings (and physical development!) don't match up with his classmates.

And that, people, can be problematic.

So then I went on to thinking how things have changed, not just in the schools, but in America in general.

A hundred or so years ago, people sent their kids to school to be educated...
in academics. Morals and values were taught at home. Children were taught to be respectful and hard-working.

Just try to imagine if, a hundred years ago, a group of kids had walked into a school, one of them with purple hair, one pregnant, one smoking a cigarette, one with a gun hidden in his jacket, one in a miniskirt and heels.

Can you imagine? They'd be kicked out faster than you could say "Little House on the Prairie." If the teacher didn't kick them out, well, when the parents found about it, can you imagine the uproar? "We don't want our kids hanging out with people like that! We want our kids hanging out with other kids who have manners and are respectful and care about themselves and others!"

Yet today, the biggest criticism of homeschoolers is "socialization." Well, call me old-fashioned, but I'm like those people a hundred years ago! I don't want mykids hanging around with and picking up the mannerisms of the violent, the addicted, the perverse!

It occurs to me that while, a hundred years ago, the focus of school was education, the focus of school today has become something quite different. Oh, now, the school officials and politicians will point to all the academic programs and incentives, all the testing, to try to show just how much they care about academics. But let's be real. Their own tests show just how miserably the schools are failing to educate America's children.

Because school has become something else. I don't know when the change happened, but it did. Popularity became more important than academic performance. Sports programs became more important than academic accountability. In the name of "tolerance" and "changing times", morals and values were escorted right out the doors along with prayer in schools.

Kids are educated at school, all right. Educated by their peers, by the words and actions that surround them.

We have become a nation that now thinks its OK for our kids to be forced into growing more emotionally (not to mention sexually) mature at an earlier age, instead of letting them be children while they can. We have switched priorities with emotional maturity and cognitive maturity. We have allowed things in our schools, people in our schools, attitudes and actions that should never be allowed.

We are sacrificing our children's innocence, their very childhoods. School is more about comparing fashion and who is dating who than about comparing governments or dividing fractions.

I don't know about you, but I'll take incredibly intelligent, academically advanced kids who are still KIDS...over a ten year old who knows all about sex anyday.

"You send your child to the schoolmaster, but 'tis the schoolboys who educate him."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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